So you got started in long range precision shooting and you're looking for the best ballistic coefficient round with outstanding performance and accuracy.
Understanding Bullet BC (Ballistic Coefficient)
The ballistic coefficient, or BC for short, is essentially a number that tells us how well a bullet can cut through the air. Think of it like a score for a bullet's aerodynamics. The closer this number is to one, the more streamlined and efficient the bullet is at resisting air drag.
When it's nearer to zero, it means the bullet faces more resistance, which can affect its speed and accuracy. This concept is crucial, especially in long-range shooting, where understanding how a bullet travels through the air helps in making accurate shots.
Top 11 Ballistic Coefficient Rounds
Calibers with The Best Accuracy at 1,000 yards
The .260 Remington, officially introduced by Remington in 1997, has its origins in the well-regarded wildcat cartridge, the 6.5-08, a favorite in competition circles. Although its introduction was slightly mistimed, just before the surge in popularity of long-range shooting and 6.5mm cartridges, it's still an exceptional choice.
As someone who's spent a lot of time on the range, I've seen how the .260 Remington, born from the .308 Winchester by reducing the case throat to fit .264 caliber bullets, stands out. The .264 (6.5mm) bullets are notably long and sleek, boasting impressive ballistic coefficients that make a real difference in shooting.
Before the emergence of other 6.5mm rounds, such as the 6.5×47 Lapua and the 6.5 Creedmoor, the .260 Rem was the go-to choice for competitions up to 1,000 yards. It's a fantastic 1,000-yard cartridge, thanks to its low wind drift and incredibly flat trajectory. When you're using the .260 Rem, especially loaded with the ultra-aerodynamic VLD (Very Low Drag) bullets in the 105- to 110-grain range, you're looking at speeds of about 3,000 to 3,100 fps. If you're shooting with a custom rifle and handloads, you'll find that these bullets stay supersonic up to an impressive 1,400 yards.
One of the things I appreciate most about the .260 Rem is its balance of light recoil and good barrel life, making it a versatile choice. It's as suitable for those who are sensitive to recoil as it is for competitive shooters who expect long firing sessions. In summary, the .260 Remington is a well-rounded cartridge that has earned its place in both competitive shooting and as a reliable option for various shooting needs.
Back in 2009, the .300 Norma Magnum made its debut, and it wasn't long before it caught the attention of enthusiasts in the long-range shooting world. This cartridge came about by adapting the .338 Norma Magnum, essentially resizing the case neck to fit a .308 caliber bullet. What makes the .300 Norma Mag stand out is its use of .30-caliber bullets, which are well-regarded for their diversity and stability. This results in the .300 Norma Magnum offering a flatter trajectory than the .338 Lapua, and it does this with significantly less recoil.
There's been some impressive talk about the .300 Norma Mag's capabilities. I've read claims that shooters can achieve incredibly tight 20-round groups, measuring about four inches at 1,100 yards. When you dive into the ballistics of it, the .300NM demonstrates performance comparable to the .338 Lapua Magnum even out to 2,000 yards.
This impressive feat is largely thanks to its high velocity, reaching up to 3,000 feet per second, especially when using the 230gr Berger Hybrid bullet. This particular bullet boasts an outstanding Ballistic Coefficient (BC) of 0.743. Berger is known for crafting some of the best long-range bullets, which helps the .300 Norma Mag maintain supersonic speeds up to 1,640 yards.
Another aspect to highlight is when the .300 Norma Mag fires a 220-grain bullet at a velocity of 3,200 feet per second, it generates a massive 4,400 foot-pounds of energy. This is a testament to its power and why it's increasingly popular among long-range shooters.
The 26 Nosler, firing a 129-grain bullet with a high Ballistic Coefficient (BC) of 0.530 at a velocity of 3,400 feet per second, is engineered to be one of the fastest and flattest shooting mid-caliber rounds in the market.
This cartridge truly excels with its high BC .264 caliber bullets, maintaining heavy bullets' supersonic speeds well past 1,500 yards. In terms of performance, at 400 yards, the 26 Nosler's velocity is comparable to what the .260 Remington achieves at the muzzle.
Learn More: Top Ballistic in-Flight Behaviors [With Pictures]
Highest Energy Rounds
In 1963, Winchester revolutionized the shooting world with the introduction of the .300 Winchester Magnum. This round, often referred to as the .300 Win Mag, is based on the .375 H&H Magnum case, just slimmed down a bit. It's a belted, bottlenecked design with an overall length of 3.34 inches, making it a perfect fit for standard-length rifle actions.
The .300 Win Mag quickly became a favorite in North America, especially among hunters and shooters who have always had a fondness for 30 caliber rounds. This "Big 30," as it's sometimes called, is incredibly versatile. It can handle bullets ranging from 110 to 220 grains, with muzzle velocities stretching from 2,680 to an impressive 3,600 feet per second.
The caliber was initially loaded with a 180-grain bullet, a choice that remains popular even today. However, modern advancements in bullet technology and design, like improved ballistic coefficients, have enhanced its performance. For example, the Hornady 208-grain ELD-Match bullet boasts an astonishing ballistic coefficient of .670.
.338-378 Weatherby Magnum
The 338-378 Weatherby Magnum, a powerhouse in the world of long-range cartridges, evolved from a wildcat round. Originally, it was crafted by adapting the .378 Weatherby Magnum, a parent case, and reducing its neck to fit a .338 inch bullet. In metric terms, this translates to 8.6 x 74mm. Its performance is on par with the renowned .338 Lapua, measured as 8.6 x 70mm.
When we talk about its performance, the Weatherby .338-378 stands out. Loaded with a popular 250-grain Weatherby factory hunting bullet, which has a ballistic coefficient (BC) of .482, it achieves a muzzle velocity of 3,060 feet per second and a staggering muzzle energy of 5,197-foot-pounds. This is no small feat in the realm of shooting.
What's truly impressive about the .338-378 Weatherby Magnum is its long-range capabilities. At 1,500 yards, a distance where many rounds falter, it not only maintains a supersonic velocity but also boasts an impressive 831 foot-pounds of retained energy. That's almost 10% more energy retention than the .338 Lapua at the same distance.
In 2018, the U.S. Army sparked the creation of the .300 Precision Rifle Cartridge (PRC) when they sought a new sniper system capable of accurately hitting a man-sized target at 2,000 yards. Let me break down how the .300 PRC came to be and what makes it stand out.
he .300 PRC's use of very-low-drag .308-inch diameter bullets positions it as a top contender in long-range shooting competitions.
Originally, the .300 PRC is based on the .375 Ruger case. Hornady's expert ballisticians fine-tuned this design by narrowing it to .30 caliber and adjusting the shoulder.
This modification was crucial as it allowed for a longer head height, a key feature of the .300 PRC. Why does this matter? Well, it lets the cartridge support heavier bullets that have a high ballistic coefficient.
The .300 PRC and its base, the .375 Ruger, both have the same .532-inch case head diameter as the classic .375 H&H Magnum. However, the .300 PRC has a slight edge. Its beltless design means it can hold a bit more powder, giving it that extra push in power.
Calibers with The Highest Velocity & Best Ballistic Coefficient
The 6.5 Creedmoor, introduced by Hornady in 2007, is a tribute to the longest-running shooting competition in North America, the Creedmoor Match. This cartridge stems from the .30 Thompson Center (.30 TC) case, modified to accommodate .264″ bullets.
Its design allows it to use long, high ballistic coefficient (BC) bullets efficiently, thanks to its ample case capacity. This means the bullet's base doesn't intrude into the space needed for the gunpowder.
When it comes to ballistics, it outperforms the well-known .308 Winchester. This advantage comes from the 6.5mm bullets, which are more aerodynamic and have better sectional density and ballistic coefficient.
The 6.5 Creedmoor also reduces recoil by about 30% compared to the .308 Winchester, and its effective range is roughly 33% longer.
From its inception, the 6.5 Creedmoor was aimed at excelling in Precision Rifle Series (PRS) competitions and 1,000-yard slow-fire matches.
It's especially effective in resisting wind drift and significantly increases the likelihood of hitting targets at 1,000 meters, almost doubling the hit probability compared to the .308 Winchester.
The aim for the 7mm Rem. Mag. was ambitious - to be the most powerful in its class, fitting into rifles designed for the standard (.30-06) length action. While it might not be the first choice for precision target shooting, its ballistics are impressive. It rivals the flat trajectory of the popular 6.5 Creedmoor.
It's a belted, bottleneck shape, earning its reputation as one of the most versatile rifle rounds. You've got a wide range of bullet weights, from 100 to over 180 grains. The 160-grain bullet used to be the go-to for all-purpose use, but nowadays, ammo makers are pushing the limits with heavier, high-BC (ballistic coefficient) match bullets, like the Berger 180gr VLD, boasting a BC of 0.684.
And it's not just about the heavy hitters. There are lighter options too, like a 154-grain round with a BC of .530 and a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps.
Flattest Trajectory BC Round
The .25-06 Remington rifle cartridge, with its roots tracing back to the pre-war .25 Whelen or .25 Niedner, holds the title of the oldest cartridge on our list.
Originating as the first wildcat cartridge developed from the .30-06 Springfield, it predated the now more famous .270 Win round. Despite its lack of widespread promotion and use, the .25-06 is known for its effectiveness as an intermediate round.
One of the standout features of .25-caliber bullets is their typically high ballistic coefficients, which translates into excellent wind resistance and the ability to maintain kinetic energy over long distances. The .25-06 Remington is characterized by a flat trajectory, remarkable accuracy, and lower recoil, which helps shooters maintain good form and habits.
When firing lighter, 75-grain bullets, the .25-06 can achieve high muzzle velocities exceeding 3,700 feet per second, while also offering a softer recoil compared to a .30-06 in a rifle of similar weight. This combination of features makes the .25-06 a versatile and efficient choice for a variety of shooting scenarios.
The .17 WSM is particularly noteworthy for its impressive flat trajectory. It's a sub-caliber rimfire cartridge, but don't let that fool you into underestimating its capabilities.
This little powerhouse is perfect for varmint hunting at distances well over 200 yards. It combines accuracy and a flat trajectory, making it a reliable choice for this purpose. The cartridge's low recoil and minimal noise are added bonuses, making for a more comfortable shooting experience.
The .17 WSM fires a 20-grain bullet at an incredible 3,000 feet per second (fps) muzzle velocity. To put that in perspective, it's significantly faster than the 2,400 fps offered by its .17 HMR cousin. When you zero it at 150 yards, the bullet drops only about 2.6 inches at 200 yards. That's incredibly flat and efficient for a rimfire round.
Wind drift is another factor where the .17 WSM shines. At 200 yards, it nearly cuts the wind drift in half compared to the popular .17HMR. This is a big deal for precision shooting, especially in variable wind conditions.
In terms of power, the .17 WSM delivers about 400 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) of muzzle energy. This performance not only surpasses previous rimfire cartridges but also rivals the velocities and energy of some centerfire rounds.
The 224 Valkyrie is a modern twist on the century-old .30 Remington, taking inspiration from the 6.8 SPC.
What's really neat about the .224 Valkyrie is how it's tailored to fit the AR-15. Federal took the 6.8 SPC case, tweaked it to hold a .224-caliber bullet, and made sure it still works with standard 6.8 SPC mags.
However, to get this cartridge running smoothly in your AR-15, you'll need to swap out the bolt and barrel.
The Valkyrie stands out with its heavy, sleek bullets, which are way more aerodynamic than those in the .223 Rem. This gives the Valkyrie an edge, especially past 500 yards. At 1,000 yards, it even matches the energy punch of a standard .223 bullet.
The secret sauce is in its 90-grain bullets. They have an impressive ballistic coefficient (BC) of .563 G1, making the Valkyrie a serious contender even at three-quarters of a mile. Its .224-diameter bullet, with a ridiculously high BC, stays supersonic and resists wind drift up to about 1,300 yards.
Is a higher ballistic coefficient better than lower?
Yes, a higher ballistic coefficient (BC) is generally better than a lower one, especially for shooting over long distances. Think of the ballistic coefficient as a score for how well a bullet can move through the air. A bullet with a high BC is like a sleek sports car - it cuts through the air smoothly and stays on course even when it's windy.
This means it can go further, hit its target more accurately, and is less affected by things like wind. On the other hand, a bullet with a low BC is like a bulky truck - it's not as good at slicing through the air, so it might get pushed around more by the wind and won't travel as far or as straight.
How does the ballistic coefficient affect accuracy?
The ballistic coefficient (BC) affects accuracy a lot, especially when shooting over long distances. Think of BC as a measure of how well a bullet can stay on its path through the air.
A high BC means the bullet is shaped and designed to cut through the air smoothly, like a sharp arrow. This kind of bullet stays more stable in the air, doesn't get pushed off course by wind as much, and can keep going straight towards the target for longer distances.
On the other hand, a bullet with a low BC is more like a blunt stone. It's not as good at moving through the air, so it can get knocked off course more easily, especially by wind. This means it might not hit exactly where you aim, especially if you're shooting far away.
What is a good ballistic coefficient?
At its core, BC is a measure of a bullet's efficiency in flight. Various factors play a role here, like the bullet's type, shape, weight, and the speed it leaves the barrel, known as muzzle velocity.
When you fire two bullets with the same muzzle velocity, the one with a higher BC will travel in a flatter trajectory and maintain its effectiveness over a longer distance. This is why shooters often seek bullets with a good BC, especially for long-range shooting.
Now, consider two bullets of the same caliber but differing in shape and weight. Generally, a heavier bullet that's longer for its caliber and has a boat tail design (a tapered rear end) will boast a better ballistic coefficient. This design reduces air resistance, allowing the bullet to maintain its velocity and trajectory more efficiently.